Scottish Parliament
European Committee
Official Report

Meeting 4, 1999

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Col 126 areas of women's rights such as sexual harassment.

Equality of opportunity for men and women was written into the Treaty of Rome, right at the beginning. It has always been a principle of the European Community. For a while member states did not do very much to realise it, but that has changed. The issue has now moved to the forefront of European Union activity, if only because it has now been recognised that equality between men and women is not simply a matter of social justice, but makes 100 per cent economic and business sense. Equality is necessary for a successful European economy. That is why it is now an important issue.

The Convener: Thank you. That was interesting and helpful. Dermot and Liz are both based in Edinburgh, and I am sure that they will be more than happy to meet members of the committee—or, indeed, other members of the Parliament—formally or informally. If members want to follow up anything from this presentation, they should see Dermot and Liz at the end of the meeting and arrange something.

European Documentation (Scrutiny)

The Convener: The next item on our agenda is the scrutiny of documents. A recommendation note has been circulated. I will go through the recommendations one by one, and if anyone wishes to change a recommendation or has a comment to make, they should let me know.

Bruce Crawford: I checked the process with Stephen Imrie yesterday, and I want to ensure that everyone else is aware of this. As well as the recommendations for action, we received packs about the various Commission documents that we are to consider. I presume that the European memorandums and the Scottish European briefs, as well as the papers from the Commission, will be available before we discuss the matters in question.

Stephen Imrie (Committee Clerk): When a document looks to be of interest on first scrutiny, the recommendation note is deferred until we have received the explanatory memorandum from the relevant Whitehall department. The committee's policy seemed to be that it would not like to take a decision on a document until it had received both the EC document and any supporting memorandums. That is why recommendation has been deferred in some cases.

Bruce Crawford: I am pleased with that.

The Convener: For future meetings, it might be helpful, for ease of access, to include page numbers as well as reference numbers on the 

Col 127 sift/scrutiny recommendation note.

I begin with document 295. The recommendation is that we should await the explanatory memorandum and consider the document at our next meeting. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: Do we agree to do the same with document 298?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: For document 305, the recommendation is no further action. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: For documents 306, 307, 308 and 309, the recommendation is no further action. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: For document 310, the recommendation is to await the memorandum and consider the document at our next meeting. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: For documents 311, 312, 313, 314, 315 and 316, the recommendation is no further action. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: For document 317, the recommendation is to await the memorandum and consider the document at our next meeting. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: For document 318, on the Montreal Protocol and substances that deplete the ozone layer, the recommendation is no further action, but to send a copy to the Transport and the Environment Committee for its interest. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: For items 319, 320, 321, 322, 323 and 324, the recommendation is no further action. Are we all agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: Item 325 concerns fisheries management and nature conservation in the marine environment. Should we recommend that it be referred to the Rural Affairs Committee for scrutiny?

Members indicated agreement.

Stephen Imrie: The clerk to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee sent me 

Col 128 a letter saying that the first meeting at which the matter would be considered was on 27 October. There is therefore time for the regular scrutiny process to take place.

Bruce Crawford: Why is it that item 325 is being sent to the Rural Affairs Committee for scrutiny, but item 318—on chlorofluorocarbons and ozone depletion—is being sent to the Transport and the Environment Committee for interest only?

The Convener: Item 318 contains nothing that relates specifically to the remit of this committee in terms of European legislation. However, the Transport and the Environment Committee might have a wider interest because of the issue of ozone depletion.

On fisheries management, however, part of the scrutiny process is to refer the matter to the Rural Affairs Committee. That committee will comment and report back to us and we will then add our comments before it goes further.

Stephen Imrie: In the first case, the committee is simply making another committee aware of an issue. In the second, the committee is taking positive action in inviting another committee to scrutinise the documents.

Bruce Crawford: I understand.

The Convener: Item 326 concerns Community environmental law. Again, there will be no action, but the matter will be referred to the Transport and the Environment Committee.

On item 327, there will be no further action. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

External Groups (Consultation)

The Convener: A document on developing a programme of consultation with external groups has been circulated. Over a number of meetings we have discussed the need to begin the process of consultation with groups throughout Scotland, to find out what their priorities are and how they want to engage in the European Union's activities in Scotland. We want to develop a longer-term work programme for the committee, to make inquiries and to appoint rapporteurs so that we can get more work done. I would like individual committee members to take on specific responsibilities, to meet representatives of different organisations and to report back to the committee. That should encourage important debate.

Do you want to add anything, Stephen?

Stephen Imrie: I will not say much, as I am conscious of the limited time that is available. As the convener says, the clerks have set out a 

Col 129 number of options for the committee, and we can help members to contact external groups to canvass opinion. We would welcome feedback on those options, so that we can develop a work programme. Having spoken to members before the meeting, I know that many people are keen to debate the wider issues as well as scrutinising legislation and holding the Executive to account.

The Convener: As Dermot Scott and Elizabeth Holt have made presentations, I ought to mention that we have the opportunity to work in partnership with the Commission and with the European Parliament.

15:15

Allan Wilson: I am pleased that the options for consultation were described as not being mutually exclusive, because there is a role for each: the mailshot, briefing sessions and so-called "meet the people" events. The mailshot is an appropriate step to take as an early part of the consultative process. I will give a plug to briefing sessions. Margo and I attended such a briefing meeting as members of the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning committee. I do not know whether Margo agrees, but I found it an illustrative exercise. Part of the process was informal; it was in camera. That allowed a full and frank exchange of views between the committee and the organisations that were briefing us. We should consider that option when we have presentations during a committee meeting. There is a case for informal briefings, to further the full and frank exchange that we all want.

The Convener: I would not want to encourage that as the norm, but there are times when there would be a place for that, as it would allow participating organisations to speak in a more relaxed manner.

Ms Oldfather: We should consider how to communicate with young people, as that is a target group that we should approach. Young people are into new technology, so we should examine more carefully whether there is a way to put questions on the internet for young people, to involve them in this exercise.

On the mailshot, why is Aberdeen University left off the academia list? A great deal of work is done on the European Union in the politics department at Aberdeen; Professor Trevor Salmon has produced work on European issues.

Although we have included the European Parliament and the European Commission in the list of general institutions because they have representative offices in Scotland, it is worth noting that—perhaps through the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities—the Committee of the Regions is an institution with which we should 

Col 130 communicate.

The Convener: The list is not exhaustive. We can certainly add universities that are not on the academia list. We have noted the addition of the COR.

Ms MacDonald: Perhaps I missed it, but were any details of the seminar announced, such as the location?

The Convener: We will come back to that.

We must consider a number of options. It will be useful to consider where the seminar fits into the process. We have had informal discussions with Liz and Dermot about others who might be able to support the process. I am keen that that complements our original discussions. We can bring ideas for the seminar to another meeting.

I would like to examine how members of the committee can be more involved in the consultation process. The process should not be about everybody coming to us or our going to everybody. If we can agree a range of issues and identify interested organisations, we should divide up responsibilities and create a system of rapporteurs, so that one member of the committee can take the lead on an issue, carry out the investigation and come back with a report, for the committee to amend, reject or accept.

Ms MacDonald: Can we choose the people we meet?

To link with Irene's comments on younger people, if we are going for an educative process as well as an information exchange, perhaps we should think in terms of the educational structures that are in place already. We could approach the Scottish Parent Teacher Council first, to say that we would like to discuss education in the European structures and policy-making processes. We should try to build that up rather than go to well-trodden establishment organisations.

The Convener: We can also use the education facility in the Parliament and its links with the wider community, both with formal organisations and informally. I am aware that a range of organisations has not been included, and we need to firm that up. The voluntary sector, through the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, is the most obvious example, but a number of other organisations have not been included.

I would like to take it from this discussion that we agree the principle of trying to engage with organisations in whatever way we can, and that we use the options listed as part of the way in which we do that. The list is not exhaustive—if other suggestions come to mind, we can add to it. I would like to come back to an early meeting with a suggested programme of activities, so that we can examine the issues that the committee should 

Col 131 address. Then we can start to divide up the work load and start the process of appointing rapporteurs.

Cathy Jamieson: I was beginning to get a bit anxious about that point, as I could immediately think of many organisations that we could all say we wished to meet, but what would be the rationale behind meeting them? With all due respect, a number of other organisations and institutions could undertake some of the educational work around European issues better than the Parliament and have more time to do that work. We need to be clear about what we want from the process, how that will inform the work of the committee and how we can feed that back into our work. I welcome the suggestion of focusing on the issues.

Ms MacDonald: We should start with the process that Allan was talking about—that is where I would be happiest to start. It would help us to decide whom we should see if we were to begin with informal and genuine briefings.

The Convener: I suggest that we consider holding one or more informal briefings. I will ask the clerk to identify the most relevant issue and to make appropriate arrangements. My second suggestion is that members should feed back their ideas through the clerk on the general options for consultation, as well as their suggestions—perhaps as a list, but not an exhaustive one—of issues that the committee should consider. That would allow us to decide our priorities collectively. Once we have had an informal discussion, we can start to divide the priorities and allocate the work accordingly.

David Mundell (South of Scotland) (Con): We must undertake an information-gathering exercise to identify who is doing what. Until I saw the list, I did not know that all councils in Scotland have European officers, and I am not aware of the extent of the work that each council is doing in that area. Given the work that we are to do on funding, we should find out about the activity and involvement of councils in particular and about how we can work with them.

The Convener: It would be difficult for us to try to engage individually with the 32 councils, as they all have a different perspective and different needs. Local government has a well-organised structure through COSLA, of which some of the members of the committee have had direct experience. COSLA has a number of European officers, a members network and an officers network, which, frankly, is probably as influential on European issues as any body in Scotland. I certainly want COSLA to be involved in the informal briefing, because—and you are right, David—we have a lot to learn from it. However, I would approach councils that way, rather than 


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Scottish Parliament 1999
Prepared 14 September 1999